Media: Neil Young Hangs Up, People Mag Writer Goes Over Wall, Newsweek-IBT Layoffs
It’s very tough out there in the media world.
First, Neil Young hung up on a Newsweek writer named Zach Schonfeld. The writer was trying to ask him over the phone about animal sounds on Neil’s latest un-listenable release called “Earth.” Zach was ordered to listen to “Earth” on a Pono player, still harder to find than Kryptonite. (You’re better off getting an Astell & Kern AKJr. It has amazing sound and doesn’t look like a Toblerone bar.) It’s a very funny story. Since Neil left his wife, went back to being a Republican, etc. I’ve given up on him. But his old music will last a lifetime.
Poor Zach. I don’t know if he’s still at Newsweek. But they had just had a second round of firings at International Business Times, their parent online publication. From the reports it seems like there aren’t many people left at either part of the company. IBT and Newsweek are mysteries wrapped in enigmas. I’ve never seen anyone from either outlet anywhere. Poor Newsweek. Once it was a great publication (15 years ago.) Now it’s like the UPI. Sometimes I see the UPI logo on a story and wonder where is it coming from? Mars? The hatch in LOST?
Then there’s Sara Hammel. After 14 years she quit People magazine’s L.A. bureau with a bang. I don’t blame here. To be a woman covering celebrities must be horrible. And in L.A. to boot, where journalists are treated like dogs. Sara’s got a book on Amazon Kindle. I’m going to buy it right now. Here’s the letter she wrote to People, via Keith Kelly at the Post:
The following is an edited version of Sara Hammel’s resignation letter.
Dear People Magazine,
It’s not me, it’s you. It’s been a wildly dysfunctional 14 years, and you’re an entirely different magazine than when we first got together. I swear half the current staff doesn’t know my name, despite my contribution to something like fifteen hundred stories in your celebrity annals, so here’s a refresher: I worked inside your London, Los Angeles and New York bureaus, covered breaking news in nine countries, and dealt with too many celebrities to remember (I know this because I was cruising through your archives recently and found my name on files I had no recollection of writing, and interviews with people I have no memory of meeting, like Ellen and Portia together, plus both leads in Nip/Tuck and that guy from Burn Notice). My first celebrity assignment for you was Spice Girl Geri Halliwell in 2002. My last was Robert De Niro in April 2016.
In between, there were memorable encounters galore, including making the gorgeous and empathic Mariska Hargitay ugly-cry (turns out she cries at like every charity-related event, phew), enduring an Oscar winner’s public bullying over an intimate dinner, facing a personal crisis at Tom Cruise’s wedding in Rome, getting basically, kind of spat on by a snotty J. Lo (okay, it was like a very wet pffttt in my general direction, really obnoxious), having fun with endless lower-key celebs like Rosario Dawson and Kyle MacLachlan and Michael Douglas, observing just how stiff and awkward George Clooney is around kids, insulting Sheryl Crow’s baby, and getting groped/harrassed by an A-list [omitted] performer in New York and Paris (that’s not to be flip—it was violating as hell. I’m still pissed I didn’t jab him in the balls with my pen).
This is just what the entitled stars and their bat—t crazy publicists put me and many other talented, hard-working reporters through. You people, as it turns out, are worse. Stupidly, we expect loyalty and support from you after years of service. We are naïve. Despite your nicey nice, glossy and chirpy veneer, some of us think of you more as the Leo DiCaprio of magazines, using up every beautiful model that crosses your path (“beautiful model”= “award-winning journalist” in this scenario), discarding them, and pretending you leave no wake behind you.
I’m oddly surprised my tenure here is ending not with explosive hatred stoked by a cold dismissal from an insensate behemoth (i.e. you)—a fate I watched ashen-faced friends and colleagues endure before my eyes during the Los Angeles bureau’s 2008 culling—but with a slow fade-out and a final venting of my gossip-weary spleen. Then again, that’s why I’m happy being freelance. I’ve survived something like eight rounds of layoffs where talented colleagues were bitch-slapped into oblivion and, I hope, will never give their nights, weekends, relationships and sanity again to keep up with an email chain about whether Jennifer Aniston is pregnant at 47 because of those tummy photos and what kind of mom will she be, when really she just had an extra burrito at lunch; but oh, wait, the rep says it’s just a rumor so there’s no story this week after all.
Read the rest in my mini-memoir.
I will say, what happens after that is that my debut teen mystery, the one I spent my adult life making into a reality, but which, despite the schlock regularly featured in its pages and online, People decided to ignore—more to the point, they ignored me entirely—even after I toiled away for them for 14 years. They wouldn’t even give me a digital post that I wrote, sourced, and agreed to remove the name of my book from (LOL). That book is called The Underdogs.
I’ll leave you with the kicker:
As I was crafting this letter, a Tweet came through from one of your top editors, Kate Coyne, crowing about her full-page People feature promoting her brand-new book, accompanied by a colorful screenshot. “Don’t ask how, but I got in touch with someone at @people—now I’m in the new issue. So grateful!”
You should be, Kate. Enjoy it while it lasts.